Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

December 15, 2023


A Shared Identity (Part 3 of 5): Defying the Priesthood of Memory


The Hague, The Netherlands 15 December 2023 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.




Hamas has gained prestige among Palestinians and people around the world while poisoning Israel’s relations with the Arab world and putting the Palestinian issue back on the Western agenda.

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip in October.
Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times


*EDITOR’S NOTE | The original title of this remarkable New York Times article is: ‘While Gazans Suffer, Hamas Reaps the Benefits.’


By Ben Hubbard, Reporting from Istanbul
9 December 2023


Much of Gaza lies in ruins, with its people pushed from their homes by Israeli bombardment and the death toll climbing ever higher. On the ground, Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years, has largely vanished, other than when its fighters pop up to attack Israeli tanks or fire rockets at Israel.

But the group is still reaping benefits from its surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7. It is regarded as the only Palestinian faction to squeeze concessions from Israel in many years. It has thrown a bloody wrench into Israel’s plans to improve relations with its Arab neighbors and forced the Palestinian issue back onto the agendas of world leaders.

Two months into the war, despite vows by Israeli officials to destroy Hamas, Israel has yet to kill its top leaders, free the remaining 137 hostages Hamas holds, or provide convincing evidence that it can achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas without an astronomical human cost.

In Hamas’s cynical calculation, the loftiness of Israel’s aims is a plus. While sticking to its long-term goal of destroying the Jewish state, Hamas can declare victory merely by surviving to fight another day.


“There is always going to be an advantage that an unconventional force will have, particularly if it is as ruthless as Hamas and doesn’t care about the damage to the local civilians,” said Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Middle East policy analyst who grew up in Gaza. “Israel is going to be stuck in this unwinnable war, causing massive death and destruction.”


A celebration last month in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, for freed Palestinian prisoners.
Credit: Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times


What exactly Israel can achieve remains an open question. However, simply prosecuting the war can, over time, damage Israel’s economy and international standing while encouraging a new generation of Palestinians to hate Israel — all benefits for Hamas.

The Hamas-led surprise attack on Oct. 7 was the deadliest day in Israel’s history, with about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, killed and 240 taken captive. Israel responded with a military ferocity not seen anywhere in decades, dropping thousands of bombs on Gaza and launching a ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas’s military and governing structures.

The war has been catastrophic for Gaza’s 2.2 million people. About 85 percent have fled their homes and now face a growing challenge to find food, water, shelter, and medical care. More than 15,000 people have been killed, more than two-thirds of them women and children, according to the territory’s health authorities, who do not report how many of the dead were combatants.


The war has taken a toll on Hamas, too. The group has primarily abandoned governance in Gaza. However, remnants of its police force still work in the south, and medics in hospitals overseen by the Health Ministry struggle to treat floods of wounded patients. Otherwise, it increasingly leaves the strip’s people to fend for themselves.

Israel has blown up many of the tunnels that Hamas has built over the years to move around the territory covertly, hold captives, manufacture weapons, and plan attacks.


Palestinians on their way from the north of Gaza to the south, passing through an Israeli checkpoint last month. About 85 percent of Gaza’s population has fled their homes.
Credit: Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times


Hamas is estimated to have 25,000 fighters, and Israeli officials assess that a few thousand of them have been killed in Gaza, in addition to about 1,000 inside Israel on Oct. 7. Both Israel and Hamas have announced the names of Hamas military figures who died in the war. On Thursday, Israel published a photograph it said showed 11 Hamas commanders meeting in a bunker. Five were marked with red circles that read “Eliminated.”

But fighters from Hamas and other armed factions continue to attack Israeli forces inside Gaza and have killed more than 90 soldiers since the start of Israel’s ground invasion, including the son of Israel’s former chief of staff.


Israel has yet to find and kill Hamas’s top leaders in Gaza, including Yahya Sinwar, the highest-ranking Hamas official in the territory, and Mohammed Deif, who leads the group’s armed wing. Israel considers both men architects of the Oct. 7 assault and the fighting in Gaza since.

Mr. Sinwar has not appeared publicly since the war began. But one hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old peace activist, told an Israeli newspaper after her release last month that Mr. Sinwar had come to the tunnel where she was being held. She asked him if he was ashamed to have done such a thing to people who had supported peace. Mr. Sinwar did not answer, she said.

Coordination continues between Hamas members in and outside of Gaza, which allowed leaders based in Qatar to negotiate exchanges of hostages for prisoners that Hamas in Gaza then carried out. The group’s media teams churn out news updates, statements from leaders, and videos of attacks and civilians killed in Israeli strikes. Hamas officials in Turkey and Lebanon communicate their views to journalists and diplomats, and the group’s leaders in Qatar speak regularly with mediators from Qatar and Egypt about potential cease-fires and exchanges of captives.

Hamas hosted a public seminar at a restaurant in Beirut this past week to assess the “accomplishments and challenges” of the war.


A house destroyed in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in Kibbutz Nir Oz, Israel. The Hamas-led incursion was the deadliest day in Israel’s history.
Credit: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times


Ahmad Abdul-Hadi, a Hamas representative, told the dozens of attendees that the battle represented a “qualitative shift” in the struggle against Israel and that Hamas and the Palestinians had accepted the sacrifices necessary to keep the Palestinian cause alive.


“The Palestinian people and their resistance had to take a costly strategic decision because the costs of liquidating the Palestinian cause and squandering Palestinian rights would be much greater,” he said.

Of course, Gaza’s civilians had no say in Hamas’s decision to attack Israel, and some have complained that they are paying the price despite the significant risk of speaking out against the group.

“Why are they hiding among the people?” an unidentified man covered in dust in a hospital said during an interview with Al Jazeera. “Why don’t they go to hell and hide there?”

But gauging the scale of such criticism is hard, and it pales in comparison to Palestinian anger at how Israel is fighting.


“There is a lot of horror around the response, but despite that, Hamas is now undoubtedly the leader of Palestinian nationalism,” said Abdaljawad Hamayel, a lecturer at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. “It is now the one holding the cards.”

A Palestinian man is mourning the loss of relatives during their funeral in Khan Younis last month. Credit: Yousef Masoud for The New York Times


By carrying out such a dramatic attack and freeing 240 Palestinians from Israeli jails in exchange for 105 people kidnapped on Oct. 7, Hamas has overshadowed the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, Mr. Hamayel said.

While Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and other countries, the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist. It has limited authority in parts of the West Bank. But it has come under increasing criticism from Palestinians who see the body as corrupt, undemocratic, and compromised because its security forces coordinate with Israel to arrest Palestinian fighters.

President Biden and other United States officials have fully backed Israel throughout the war. But in recent weeks, they have paired that support with concern that the vast destruction and high death toll could undermine Israel’s broader goals. They have also renewed calls for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians as the only path to long-term peace. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel heads a right-wing government with members who openly disdain the idea.


Other observers have suggested that leaders in Israel and the West have been too quick to assume Israel can destroy Hamas.

One month into the war, Jon Alterman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, published an analysis titled “Israel Could Lose.” He argued not that Hamas would turn the tables and destroy Israel but that the war could serve Hamas’s long-term aims by siphoning support from the Palestinian Authority and to Hamas. That, in turn, would increase Israel’s isolation from countries in the Arab and developing worlds and complicate its relationships with the United States and Europe.

That outcome is still a risk, Mr. Alterman said in an interview this past week.

In Hamas’s view, he said, “This is the necessary first step to reverse the strength that Israel gets from being integrated into the region and the world.”


There are also scant historical examples of Israel successfully using overwhelming force to destroy its enemies.


In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, which it considered a terrorist organization. The war was long and deadly and failed to destroy the P.L.O. while preparing the ground for the rise of Hezbollah. (Israel signed peace accords with the P.L.O. in 1993.)

In 2006, Israel again went to war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, which has been more robust in the years since.

Israel has also fought three major wars against Hamas in Gaza since 2008, none of which prevented the group from rearming and preparing for the Oct. 7 assault.

Mr. Alkhatib, the policy analyst from Gaza, recalled the string of Hamas leaders whom Israel killed around the time he left Gaza in 2004.

“All of these big, big leaders were assassinated, so I was under the impression that Hamas was a weakened organization,” he said.


Destroyed buildings this month in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit: Yousef Masoud for The New York Times


He was wrong, Mr. Alkhatib added, having learned in the years since that Hamas considers its commanders replaceable and sees a resentful population in Gaza as a way of ensuring future recruits.

“I would never have thought that Hamas would rise to this level of power,” Mr. Alkhatib said. “But it points to how they are resilient, they are adaptive, and one way or another, they will find a way to reconstitute, even outside of Gaza.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.


Ben Hubbard is the Istanbul bureau chief. He has spent over a dozen years in the Arab world, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Yemen. He is the author of “MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman.” More about Ben Hubbard.


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.




A historical tour de force that demolishes the myths and taboos surrounding Jewish and Israeli history, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a new account of both that demands reckoning.

Was there a forced exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans? Should we regard the Jewish people, throughout two millennia, as both a distinct ethnic group and a putative nation—returned at last to its Biblical homeland?

Shlomo Sand, Israeli Historian at the University of Tel Aviv, argues that most Jews descend from converts whose native lands were scattered far across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The formation of a Jewish people and then a Jewish nation out of these disparate groups could only occur under the sway of a new historiography, developing in response to the rise of nationalism throughout Europe.


The central importance of the conflict in the Middle East ensures that Sand's arguments will reverberate well beyond the historians and politicians he takes to task. Without an adequate understanding of Israel's past, capable of superseding today's opposing views, diplomatic solutions are likely to remain elusive.


Shlomo Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel's future in this iconoclastic history work.




By Abraham A. van Kempen
15 December 2023


Religion, belief, and culture unite the Jews more than a unifying genetic strand. Professor Anita Shapira, Chair of the Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel at Tel Aviv University, says: "We [in the institute eds.] teach based on an established historical concept that there was, in fact, a Jewish collective, which considered itself a people not only in the religious sense but in the sense of an entity whose essence transcends the merely religious. The expression 'All Jews are responsible for each other' is not a religious one."


And, despite Israeli secularism, who can refute what Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of the New North London Synagogue says: "Jewish continuity is premised on religious factors, including observance of the Torah, the study of the Talmud, the creation of communities, the life of the synagogue and the bonds of the liturgy. These are what form the vital links between generations of Jews." 1


Jews in the Diaspora, many descendants who converted to Judaism, flagrantly challenge Israel's Declaration of Independence:


"Eretz-Yisrael, the Land of Israel – Palestine, was the birthplace of the Jewish people.


               Here, their spiritual, religious, and political identity was shaped.


               Here, they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance, and gave to the world the eternal Books.” 22


Editor’s Note | Most Jews are no longer ‘Jewish.’ Sixty-five percent of all Jews are atheists or agnostics. Though they ‘believe’ in the Promised Land, most no longer believe in Yahweh, who promised the Land.





Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History at West Chester University, United Kingdom, and a contributing editor of Logos, a journal of modern society and culture, writes: "Israel seems to be a good laboratory for studying mass delusion, not just the delusional nature of Israeli ideas and feelings about other people's behavior, such as that of the Palestinians, Lebanese Shiites, or Iranians, not just the delusional nature of their understanding of their behavior as perennial victims. Israel's potential for mass delusion turns out to be much broader and deeper. With Israel, one can study an entire population and its network of worldwide supporters regarding their historical delusional understanding of who they are." 25


University of Tel Aviv's History Professor Shlomo Sand's recent book, 'The Invention of the Jewish People' is just such a study. The obsessively held Israeli-Zionist pre-disposition that all Jews are an ethnically identifiable people existing since biblical times and having their origins in the ancient land of ancient Israel is genetically improbable; delusional if not madness. Following the lead of French historian Marcel Detienne, Sand attempts to "de-nationalize national histories ... [and] stop trudging along roads paved mainly with materials forged in national fantasies." 26


"Sand," says Raymond Deane, in Electronic Intifada, 22 October 2009, "traces how Zionist ideology drove the project of Jewish nationalism by turning Judaism "into something hermetic, like the German Volk … "27. He argues that history and biology are enlisted 'to bind together the frangible secular Jewish identity.' Together, these have engendered an "ethno-nationalist historiography" which is typified by the mid-19th-century German Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz and his friend Moses Hess, who "needed a good deal of racial theory to dream up the Jewish people." 28


Sand proceeds to engage chronologically. He examines the character of the Jews as a 'people,' ‘nation,' and occasionally, 'race' (sic) by reviewing the published writings of figures known to scholars in Jewish Studies but less familiar to historians. These include Josephus, Isaak Markus Jost, Heinrich Graetz, Simon Dubnow, Yitzhak Baer, Ben-Zion Dinur, Hans Kohn, and Salo Baron.29


               "The moment I began to apply the methods of Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson, and others, who instigated a conceptual revolution in the field of national history, the materials I encountered in my research were illuminated by insights that led me in unexpected directions."


"I should emphasize," Sand explains in an interview, "I encountered scarcely any new findings – almost all such material had previously been uncovered by Zionist and Israeli historiographers (sic). The difference is that some elements had not been given sufficient attention, others were immediately swept under the historiographers' rug, and still, others were 'forgotten' because they did not fit the ideological needs of the evolving national identity." 30


"What is so amazing is that much of the information cited in this book has always been known inside the limited circles of professional research but invariably got lost en route to the public and educational memory arena. My task was to organize the historical information in a new way, dust off the old documents, and continually reexamine them. The conclusions to which they led me created a radically different narrative from the one I had been taught in my youth." 31


Lawrence Davidson adds: "Sand begins by explaining that national identities are most often established in the mind of citizens "well before a person has acquired the tools for thinking critically about it." 32 This is accomplished through "history lessons, civics class- es...national holidays...[and] state ceremonies [until] various spheres of memory coalesce into an imagined universe representing the past." 33 Some processes of national indoctrination integrate the myth of national ethnicity – an "ethnos"– into this mix.




Such is the case with the vast majority of Israeli scholars. It is clear from Sand's review of the work of Zionist historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and archeologists that those he refers to as "the authoritative priesthood of memory "34 see their job as reinforcing the myth of ethnos and not challenging it.


According to Sand, such a "priesthood" usually evolves the myth of ethnos first and then passes it on to the population in general. He quotes Carlton Hayes to the effect that the "nationalist theology of the intellectuals becomes nationalist mythology for the masses." 35 Thus, over time, the citizenry, be they the professors or the plumbers, became steadfastly loyal to their mythological culture and, in the case of Israel, wholly identified with an a priori belief in the ethnic/genetic bases of the Jewish people." 36


               Consequently, Israelis "'know' for a certainty that the Jewish nation has existed since Moses … and that they are its direct and exclusive descendants." Their "nation" then "wandered in exile for two thousand years," all the time managing to "avoid integration with or assimilation into" the Gentile sea around them." 37


               The Zionists revised version of history, adapted in their image, depicts Jewry as an immortal "people-race originating in the distant past, whose weight determines and outlines collective identities in the present." 38 What's more, "the ultra-paradigm of deportation was essential for constructing a long-term memory wherein an exiled nation-race could be described as the direct descendants of the ancient Israelites and Judeans." 39


               In other words, the ancestors of all modern Jews had to have been forcibly displaced from ancient Israel. They caused "to wander over lands and seas to the far corners of the earth until the advent of Zionism prompted them to turn around and return en masse to their orphaned homeland." 40 According to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, "the whole [Jewish] people were forcibly uprooted" from ancient Israel. 41




The Assyrians and Babylonians expelled only the local administrative and cultural elites. They left most of the population, the tillers of the land, and the taxpayers in place. The Romans were even more practical. Sand pointed out that "nowhere in the abundant Roman documentation is there any mention of deportation from Judea "42 and concluded that "the Judean masses were not exiled in [70 CE and in] 135 CE," though the Romans presumably did remove circumcised men from Jerusalem and deported enemy soldiers.


Israel Belkind claimed: "The upper strata abandoned the land… perhaps too, so did many of the mobile urban people. But the tillers of the soil remained attached to their land." Belkind's findings were later "erased from national historiography." 43 Zionists expressly white-washed this rich and varied Jewish history to triumph with identity politics, reminiscent of the "last wave of nationalist awakening in Europe." 44 Gradually, traditional Judaism merged into the zeitgeist of Zionism, where Judaism became an instrument serving the leaders of the imaginary ethnos, "45 thereby corrupting both state and religion. Every Zionist intellectual of the Israeli founding generation, especially the rabbis representing the Party of the Pharisees, championed the myth of ethnos.


Upon its creation, "the first important mission to be undertaken by the new state was the removal, as best it could, of those who did not regard themselves as Jews." 46 In other words, Modern Israel inaugurated its creation with a process of ethnic cleansing. Subsequently, Israel turned itself into what Sand describes, using the terminology of the Israeli sociologist Sammy Smooha, as an "ethnic democracy," which makes it an "incomplete, low-grade democracy." 47


Today's Israel is not a democracy, but a "liberal ethnocracy "48 that presumes its "growing and strengthening" Arab minority "will always accept its exclusion from the political and cultural heart."49 Ultimately, we may see "an uprising in the Arab Galilee, followed by iron-fisted repression," which would constitute "a turning point for the existence of Israel" in the region.


The case against the Jewish state cannot be based on an unseemly tussle for genetic primacy but on fundamental political and human rights discourse. "If it is senseless to expect the Jewish Israelis to dismantle their state, the least that can be demanded of them is to stop reserving it for themselves as a polity that segregates, excludes, and discriminates against a large number of its citizens, whom it views as undesirable aliens." 50


"Every large human group that thinks of itself as a people, even if it never was one and its past is entirely imaginary, has the right to national self-determination … This does not, of course, give a particular group that sees itself as a people the right to dispossess another group of its land to achieve its self-determination." 51


The country refuses to institutionalize the qualities of civil and political equality necessary for such a democracy. And its Basic Law, forbidding any political party that denies the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, makes it impossible to "transform the Jewish state into an Israeli democracy by a democratic process." 52




In a harshly critical conclusion, Sand shows that Israel and its Zionist infrastructure is "exclusive and discriminatory in its political manifestation" and its primary purpose is to serve "a biological-religious ethnos.53


Israel can never become a truly democratic society and never resolve the tensions inherent in calling itself both a democracy and the "state of the Jewish people" unless the idea of Jewishness itself is freed from ethnic, even racialized, folklore.54


Israeli historian Tom Segev writes that Sand's book "is intended to promote the idea that Israel should be a 'state of all its citizens' – Jews, Arabs, and others – in contrast to its declared identity as a 'democracy for Jews-only.'" 55 Segev adds that the book includes "numerous facts and insights that many Israelis will be astonished to read for the first time." 56


British historian Max Hastings, in his review for the Sunday Times, writes that the book "represents, at the very least, a formidable polemic against claims that Israel has a moral right to define itself as an explicitly and exclusively Jewish society, in which non- Jews, such as Palestinian-Israelis [sic], are culturally and politically marginalized." He adds that Sand "rightly deplores the eagerness of fanatics to insist upon the historical truth of events convenient to modern politics, in defiance of evidence or probability. “Hastings continues, "It is possible to accept his view that there is no common genetic link either between the world's Jews or to the ancient tribes of Israel, while also trusting the evidence of one's senses that there are remarkable common Jewish characteristics …" 57


Sand seems in two minds over whether or not democracy in Israel is achievable. The omens are contradictory. On some levels, Israeli-Jewish political culture has become steadily more pluralist and tolerant of dissent. On others, the center of political gravity shifts rightward, and the public space for open anti-Arab racism grows bigger. So brainwashed are many Israeli Jews that, according to Sand, they would isolate themselves from "the rest of humanity" to preserve their ethnic myth and its accompanying territorial claims.58


12           WALLS LOCK IN, TOO …


Extreme isolation means eventual national death in the modern world. Even now, as Sand points out, Israel is only connected to its Western lifeline through the political influence of pro-Zionist lobbies in the diaspora.59 That influence is eroding primarily due to the racist behavior of successive Israeli governments. It is a no-win game for the Zionists, but they cannot see it through their myth-inspired blinkers. As it turns out, the most potent wall the Zionists have built is that which holds up the myth of who they are supposed to be. To the religious-nationalists and the ultra-nationalists, the walls aim to fence the non-Jews out. However, until the world shouts, "Mr. Netanyahu, tear down that wall," the barrier keeps the Jews inside their fortress.


13           One Land, One God, One People… The Trinity of Zionism


Nothing was more central to the Yahweh-alone undertaking than the land issue. One land, one God, one people! This monotheistic movement's slogan arose in the ninth century BCE. It was a profoundly xenophobic movement, opposed to the king and queen, Ahab and the hated Jezebel, and their expansionist policy, which threatened to dilute the state's ethnic character. In response, the prophet Elijah ('Yahweh is God'), his disciple Elisha, and others fashioned a holy trinity consisting of a sacred land, a chosen people, and a divine landlord to see that they remained united in perpetuity.60


Lazare: "For the Zionists, it's a powerful package. God gave the land to the Israelites, [or so the present Party of the Pharisees maintain], and today's nationalists [secular and religious] believe that they have three thousand years of perceived truths on their side in 'reclaiming' their land deed. But a land deed of what? The Zionists have always been mysterious about their precise territorial ambitions. Did they want the coastal plain, the whole of Palestine, or more?"


"Since the Promised Land was a concept," Danielle Lazare continues, "they could adjust their demands to fit the circumstances. David Ben-Gurion was a maximalist who sometimes argued for a homeland extending from Palestine to the East Bank of the Jordan, as far north as Damascus and south as the island of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. When the Peel Commission offered the Zionists a relatively tiny sliver of land in 1937 – 54 percent for the Jews, 46 percent for the Palestinians –he grabbed it despite his colleagues' protests. 'The debate has not been for or against the indivisibility of Eretz Israel,' he said. 'No Zionist can forego the smallest portion of Eretz Israel. The debate was over which two routes would lead quicker to the common goal.' The Peel Commission's offer was the first step toward a greater Israel. As Chaim Weizmann said, 'the rest of the land was not going anywhere, and the nationalists would get to it in due course.'" 61


Lazare adds: "The strategy can be seen as a slow-motion invasion: the settlers first gain a toehold and then take advantage of every outbreak of armed violence to enlarge their domain. First, there were the scattered settlements of the Yishuv 62; then the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948-49; the seizure of the West Bank in 1967; and, finally, more settlements aimed at harassing the Palestinians." The latest proposal by the ultra-rightist Naftali Bennett to annex 60 percent of the West Bank, known as Area C, can be seen as the culmination of a century-long process aimed at confining the Palestinians to a few scattered outposts. Assuming the annexation goes through, more provocations will follow until ethnic cleansing is complete.63


The Palestinian hill country is central to the story of the Hebrew Bible, and the West Bank has always been the prime target. But other prizes lie not far off. There will be no shortage of opportunities for expansion as violence envelops the Muslim world, with Israeli atrocities and criminal misconduct adding more fuel to the fire. "Zionism plundered the religious term 'Land of Israel [Eretz Yisrael]' and turned it into a geopolitical term," Sand says. "The [theological eds.] Land of Israel is not the homeland of the Jews. It became a homeland at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th only upon the emergence of the Zionist movement." 64


Editor’s Note | Who Are the Indigenous People of the Land?


Despite Israeli disinformation, the biblical texts show that the Yahweh religion did not spring up in Eretz-Yisrael territory, which God earmarked for his chosen ones. Biblical authority attests the birth of monotheism occurred outside the 'Promised Land.' God appears for the first time in a passage about Haran in today's southern Turkey. There He commands Abram, an Aramean, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee (Genesis 12: 1)." Abram indeed makes his way to the land but does not stay there long and goes on to Egypt.23


Neither Abram, later referred to as Abraham, nor Moses were natives of Canaan. Abraham sends his son, Isaac, back to his homeland to marry. Isaac, in turn, sends his son, Jacob, from Canaan to Aram Naharayim, where he marries Leah and Rachel and fathers twelve sons and one daughter with them and his concubines. The sons and Joseph's two sons will become the fathers of the Tribes of Israel. All were born in a foreign land except Benjamin. He was born in Canaan.


Abraham, his wife, his son's bride, the daughters-in-law, and concubines of his grandson, and nearly all his great-grandchildren were, according to the Sacred Text, natives of the northern Fertile Crescent who immigrated to Canaan at the commandment of the Creator. Jacob's sons went down to Egypt, where his offspring, the seeds of Israel, were born, spanning 400 years. They did not hesitate to marry local women. Moses married outside the faith.24


In 'A Diverse Collection of Peoples,' Daniel Lazare writes: "Jewry's amazing expansion between 150 BCE and 70 CE was the result of an extensive migration of Judeans to all parts of the world … [a] dynamic, if painful, process that produced the thriving Israelite diaspora." Spreading the national faith, they won growing numbers to their side through the strength of argument or perhaps by force. In ancient times, when the Persian Jews went forth to slaughter their enemies, "many people of other nationalities became Jews because a fear of the Jews had seized them (Esther 8:17)." Lazare adds: "But the more people they converted, the more the original ethnic stock was lost."


"Long before 70 CE, sizeable Jewish and Christian communities dotted the countryside outside Judea – Persia, Egypt, Asia Minor and elsewhere." 9 Where, then, did the European Jews come from, considering that few, voluntarily or involuntarily, abandoned Judea over the ages? Between 150 BCE and 70 CE, Judaism possessed a "strong proselytizing zeal,” and this, along with the population movements characteristic during and after the Hellenistic wars, contributed to something of a Jewish "population explosion" throughout the Mediterranean world.10 Indeed, a significant portion of Jewry in the Roman Empire were Gentiles who converted to Judaism. Hence, most Jews today are unlikely to be descendants of the Judeans who inhabited the land two thousand years ago.




The New Testament recognizes pagans who convert to Judaism: Solomon's porch overlooks the Court of the Gentiles, where thousands of proselytes to Judaism "from every nation under heaven" are gathered. Many converts are ancestors of the indigenous people of Palestine in a future time- frame. They hear the 120 disciples praising God in their tongues (languages) and also listen to Peter's first sermon on the new spirituality— Jesus crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sin and his gift of the Holy Spirit, which they see and hear (Acts 2: 1-11, 14-36).11


Most of these additional Jews were converts.


"At the height of Judaism's expansion in the early 3rd century CE," the Jewish population constituted" seven to eight percent of all the Roman empire's inhabitants." 12 "In 324 CE, the province of Palestine became a Christian protectorate and a large part of its population became Christian "13 with a Jewish presence intact. Following the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century CE, many local Jews and Christians converted to Islam and were assimilated by the Arab conquerors. Many of these converts are believed to be the ancestors of the contemporary Palestinians.14




The ancestry of most contemporary Jews likely stems mainly from outside the Land of Israel; that a 'nation-race' of Jews with a common origin nominally has existed, and that just as most Christians and Muslims are the progeny of converted people, many Jews are also descended from converts. Mass conversions to Judaism occurred among the Khazars15 in the Caucasus, Berber tribes in North Africa, and the Himyarite Kingdom of the Arabian Peninsula. "A large part of Eastern European Jewry might have originated in the territories of the Khazar Empire." 16


"Khazaria, that 'Strange Empire,' flourishing in the Caspian region between the seventh and tenth centuries CE," says Raymond Deane of 'Electronic Intifada,' "has long intrigued writers and historians." In 1976, Arthur Koestler 17 wrote ‘The Thirteenth Tribe' anticipating it would combat anti-Semitism.


If contemporary Jews were descended from the Khazars, he argued, they could not be held responsible for Jesus' Crucifixion. By the eighth century, the Khazars had adopted Hebrew as their sacred and written tongue, and "at some stage between the mid-eighth and mid-ninth centuries, they … adopted Jewish monotheism." 18 This conversion was calculated to save them from absorption into either the Roman or the Islamic empires. "The Khazars likely engendered many Ashkenazi Jews of central and Eastern Europe who," suggested by Deane, "would later invent the myths of Zionism to justify their colonization of Palestine," land to which they reportedly had "no ethnic connection." 19


Daniel Lazare: "We know very little about this 'steppe Atlantis,' as the Soviet historian Lev Gumilev called Khazaria. The Khazars' adoption of Judaism is not in dispute. In 837-38, the empire issued imitation Abbasid dirhams stamped with the Muslim-influenced formula, 'There is no god but God, and Moses is his messenger.'" 20


One of several European Jewish population genetics studies published in 2012 (Elhaik et al.) concluded that European Jews stem from the Caucasus and Mesopotamian populations. Dan Graur, professor of molecular evolution at the University of Houston and Elhaik's doctoral supervisor, calls Elhaik's conclusion –Ashkenazi Jews originate in the Caucasus region and not the Middle East – "a sincere estimate.” Furthermore, Graur said Elhaik "writes more provocatively than necessary, but it's his style." 21


Expectedly, geneticists still waving the flag of the pure race theory, defending the Zionist party line, cannot yet fully agree.


Excerpted from:


van Kempen, Abraham. Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf, Chapter 3: A Shared Identity (Kindle Location 1601), 2nd Edition 2019.




The elimination of Hamas will make the region a safer place for both Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli politician Sharren Haskel says



By Elizabeth Blade, RT Middle East Correspondent
HomeWorld News
13 December 2023


Israel's operation in Gaza has entered its third month. The campaign was launched in response to the massacre of October 7, in which Hamas militants murdered at least 1,200 Israelis.


So far, more than 22,000 targets belonging to Hamas and the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad have been struck. In pursuing its stated goal of eliminating Hamas, Israel has killed more than 17,000 people, of whom 7,000 were allegedly terrorists.


To gauge Israel's achievements, goals, and how the war is perceived, RT spoke with Sharren Haskel, a member of the Knesset (Israel's parliament) from the National Unity party, known for its centrist views on security. The party is led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who, according to recent polls, is projected to become Israel's next prime minister, with his faction projected to gain some 38 out of 120 seats in parliament.

“Hamas doesn't have any limits.”


RT: Let's start with the recent operation in Khan Yunis. The IDF says it is hunting down Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar. Still, Palestinians believe the operation is designed to tighten Israel's grip over Gaza, occupy it, and control the Gazan population. What do you have to say about that?


Haskel: We are not after the Gazan population. What Hamas is doing is waging a psychological war. We have plenty of information from Hamas fighters [that were captured and interrogated – ed.] to support that. We know for a fact that Sinwar moved from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south with the help of the humanitarian corridor that Israel has opened. We also know for a fact that Hamas took hostages, dressed them up as Palestinians, and moved them to the south using that same corridor. We know that they are constantly using and abusing the humanitarian assistance Israel gives. Of course, Israel will continue to assist. Yet, we also have to fight Hamas, and we will get them. We will reach each Nukhba [elite unit of Hamas that carried out the deadly attacks on Israel on October 7 – ed.] and Hamas terrorists and eliminate them. Only this way, the area is going to be safer, not only for the Israelis but for the Palestinians, too.


RT: Israel was saying there are underground bunkers and tunnels under the Shifa complex. Allegations have also been made about piles of ammunition. But so far, not many visuals have been released, even that of limited arms. Isn't it hurting Israel's image?


Haskel: What you are saying is incorrect. We have plenty of images showing bunkers and tunnels under the Shifa Hospital. We saw that the Nukhba fighters brought hostages into that medical complex. We saw and heard from eyewitnesses that the medical staff maltreated them. One girl [Mia Schem – ed.] was treated by a vet. Her life will never be the same again. We gathered plenty of evidence from that hospital, and we showed that Hamas accumulated much of its arms there. We showed shafts and armed people in and around the hospital. We showed rockets that were fired from there... Just a few days ago, we saw that Hamas was firing rockets from a humanitarian area where Palestinians have settled [Mawasi – ed.]. So I can tell you for sure – Hamas has no limits. It is using its Palestinian population and international organizations to pursue its goals.


RT: Israel keeps on claiming it is trying not to harm civilians, but so far, more than 17,000 have lost their lives. Out of those, around 7000 are militants. Wasn't there any better way to combat terror than to bomb the entire population, including women and children?


Haskel: We are doing everything in our power to avoid it. There isn't a single army in the world that is trying to prevent civilian deaths as much as we do. Of course, this makes the goal [to eliminate Hamas – ed.] more complex, and it will take us longer to reach it, but we will eventually, and in the process of doing so, we will continue to exert efforts to try and avoid civilian casualties.

“There is a lot of hypocrisy here.”


RT: International tolerance of the operation in Gaza seems to be coming to an end. Do you think Israel will continue the operation even if support fades?


Haskel: The world understands that Hamas needs to be eliminated. At least, this is the case with those states that share the same values of freedom and democracy. They are all supportive because they understand that if we don't fight Hamas, the lives of Israelis and Palestinians will not be safe here. What Hamas did on October 7 was a crime against humanity. After those horrendous attacks, the world has come to realize that Hamas is a radical and extreme organization, just like ISIS. The countries that believe in these values and who believe in the sanctity of life support Israel. I just returned from the EU and saw the vast support they give us. We have two goals in this war: to eliminate Hamas and to make sure that all our hostages come back home, and we will not rest until these goals are achieved.


RT: Do you think there is always a stopwatch when it comes to Israel, as opposed to the US, for example, whose actions in Iraq have never been limited?


Haskel: Of course, Israel is being held to a different standard. When you look at other conflicts around the world, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the war in Syria, nobody seems to blink and condemn. But when it comes to Israel, there is always a lot of criticism and condemnation. So, of course, there is a lot of hypocrisy here. We are also facing growing antisemitism and hatred. Many people prefer to see Israelis or the Jewish people dead.


“This is a war of existence.”


RT: Critics say that the bombardment of Gaza can also lead to casualties among the hostages. What do you have to say on the matter?


Haskel: The only one who leads to the deaths of hostages is Hamas, and we have seen it in many of their videos. This radical organization is vicious. They are drugging our hostages, they are torturing them, they are humiliating them, and they are killing them. And this means that we need to get to those hostages as soon as possible.


RT: We have seen a disagreement between the families of the hostages. Some want the government to continue the bombardment. Others say the operation needs to stop, and all hostages should be freed. What is your take on this? Do you feel that the cabinet's actions have split the families that seem to be working tightly together so far?


Haskel: Before the horrendous attacks of Hamas on October 7, Israel was somewhat divided. But since then, we have shown a united front. We are together in this goal to eliminate Hamas and bring all our hostages back home. For us, this is a war of existence, not only for the sake of Jewish life here but also for the Palestinians and the entire region. So, to make this region safer, we all stand behind our government.

“After the war, there will be time for politics.”


RT: Your party is going up in the polls. How do you envision your party's future after the war?


Haskel: Right now, we don't deal with politics. When the attacks happened, we decided to put aside all our differences and all political moves. Right now, we focus on how to win this war. After the battle, there will be time for politics.


RT: Polls also predict Benny Gantz will be the next prime minister. What current policies would you change if you ended up coming to power? What policies would remain?


Haskel: There is a better time to discuss it.


RT: Some say that Prime Minister Netanyahu will try to remain in power even after the war, despite his growing criticism. Will he need to leave after the battle is over? What happens if he doesn't?


Haskel: We don't deal with politics at the moment and are not trying to make political gains, as all our focus is on winning the war. Before the battle, I had many different political speeches and statements [regarding the future of Netanyahu – ed.]. We will revisit and discuss the political situation when the war is over. But right now, we don't deal with elections.


RT: How do you see the future of Israel at the end of this war? Do you think Israel will try to widen the circle of the Abraham Accords? And if so, how likely is it that Arab states will normalize relations with Israel after the war in Gaza?


Haskel: Absolutely, yes. The reason why Iran pushed Hamas to do these horrendous acts against humanity on October 7 was because they tried to sabotage the deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But I am confident that when the war is over, we will revisit this deal because if we don't, it means Iran has won, and we will not let them do so.


EXCLUSIVE: Stay tuned for an exclusive RT interview with an official representative of the Hezbollah movement



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